Downsizing of the Postal Service’s workforce is undercutting the service’s historic role as an opportunity provider for African Americans, according to a new book by a postal-worker-turned historian.
Philip F. Rubio’s There’s Always Work at the Post Office: African American Postal Workers and the Fight for Jobs, Justice, and Equality is “a history of black postal workers, their activism and influence on the post office and its unions, as well as the significance of government employment in the making of the black community.” The book starts in the 19th century but focuses especially on the major role played by African Americans in the crucial wildcat postal strike of 1970.
Especially telling is this passage from an interview with APWU president William H. Burrus Jr.: “'The post office has been unique . . . . We shaped America,' notes Burrus, who warns that 'our country will lose something' without universal service: 'It will also put an end to the relationship between the people of color and their opportunity to climb up the ladder of success in our country. . . . The postal service has permitted millions of African Americans . . . to better themselves.'”
Rubio worked 20 years for the Postal Service, first in the Denver Bulk Mail Center and then as a letter carrier in North Carolina, before heading to graduate school and becoming a professor at North Carolina A&T State University.
The book cites 2008 statistics showing that the USPS’s workforce was 21% African American, 8% Asian American, 8% Hispanic, and more than 37% female.
‘That diversity came about primarily as a result of the fight led over the years by African American postal workers for jobs, justice, and equality at the post office,” Rubio concludes.